Multiple Nevada and offshore sportsbooks have told Covers.com that there were no unusual betting patterns involving Auburn basketball, which is at the center of an ongoing FBI investigation into point-shaving.
Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson first reported Thursday that suspended Auburn guard Varez Ward has been implicated in the investigation.
A source close to the Auburn program told Covers.com that Ward’s gambling connection is believed to be in Montgomery, Ala., Ward’s hometown. If the allegations are true, a local bookmaker’s involvement would help explain why Nevada and offshore sportsbooks did not see any erratic line movement in Auburn games.
Ward and guard Chris Denson were suspended before a Feb. 25 home game against Arkansas after a member of Auburn’s coaching staff was alerted of possible point shaving by an unnamed Auburn player, according to the Yahoo! report. Covers.com has learned that assistant Milt Wagner is believed to be the coach originally informed of the allegations.
From there, the Tigers suspended both Denson and Ward indefinitely and alerted the FBI and NCAA. Denson has since been cleared.
A transfer from Texas, Ward averaged nine points and team-high 3.8 assists in 27 games this season. The sophomore has been banned from all team activities.
The website al.com, which is a combination of the majority of Alabama’s major newspapers, reported Thursday that Ward has privately acknowledged the investigation but has denied the allegations.
According to the Yahoo! Sports report, at least two games have been highlighted in the investigation: a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on Jan. 25 and a 68-50 loss to Alabama on Feb. 7.
Auburn was a five-point underdog in the blowout loss to Alabama, but did cover the 9.5-point spread against Arkansas.
Ward played less than a minute in the Arkansas game. He entered the game early in the second half and promptly turned the ball over and then hit the deck with an apparent leg injury. He left the game and did not return, leaving Auburn with only one inexperienced point guard, Tony Neysmith, to finish the game.
Against Alabama, Ward finished with three points on 1-for-5 shooting, while committing six turnovers in 17 minutes of action. He coughed the ball up twice in 21 seconds, with the Crimson Tide ahead 43-33 and just over 15 minutes remaining in the game. He would have two more turnovers six minutes later, helping Alabama push the lead to 20 points.
Auburn was called for three technical fouls in the first half of the Alabama game. Jamie Luckie, Doug Sirmons and Michael Stephens were the officials for the game.
When contacted by Covers.com, the FBI office out of Mobile, Ala., declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
While the point spreads in the two games highlighted didn’t move significantly, some of the over/under totals did. The total in the Jan. 25 game against Arkansas opened around 134.5, but got as low as 131.5 at some books. The total in the Feb. 7 Alabama game opened at 117 offshore before closing at 122.
Seven of Auburn’s eight games stayed under the over/under total from Jan. 25 to Feb. 25, before Ward was suspended.
There also has been some buzz surrounding Auburn’s 64-43 loss to Long Beach State in the semifinals of the Diamondhead Classic on Dec. 23 in Honolulu. Long Beach State opened as a 10-point favorite, but the number was bet down to -9.5 by tipoff. Ward started and played 29 minutes, going 1 of 7 from the field with five turnovers and one assist.
Auburn, which finished the regular season on a 12-3 run against the spread, was eliminated from the SEC tournament Thursday, falling to Ole Miss 68-54.
--Covers.com staff writer Ryan Stetson contributed to this article.